Jamaica Avenue in 1977 during demolition of the Jamaica El. The train was rerouted in a subway under Archer Avenue in 1988; in true MTA fashion, the replacement line arrived 11 years late.

I was living in Bay Ridge at the time and I’m sorry I missed out on Jamaica Avenue in transition, with the forlorn el stanchions still in place, as well as a flock of curved-mast Dwarf lampposts that fit under the el overpass. The city would replace them with posts of normal stature, but there were still one or two still around by the time I moved to Queens in 1993.

Photo courtesy Frank Florianz.


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20 Responses to AFTER THE EL HAS GONE

  1. mark says:

    That was only from Suthpin Blvd through 168th Street. The el itself ran to Queens Blvd. unil 1985 and the portion between 132nd Street and Sutphin Blvd was not torn down unil 1991 – 1992.

  2. Francis says:

    How interesting to see this transition period.

  3. Tal Barzilai says:

    The reason that el got removed was because many living and working there claimed it was being too noisy and the MTA finally agreed to tear it down while rerouting the line underground nearby.

  4. andy says:

    Now when you ride the J train from Parsons-Jamaica Center into Brooklyn, you ride on one of the newest portions of the subway system (the Archer Ave. subway, opened in 1988), a Dual Contracts El (between 121st Street and Cypress Hills), and a 19th century pre-subway el route in Brooklyn (from Cresecent Street through Marcy Ave.) that opened in stages between 1885 and 1893. Which much of this old el route was rebuilt in 1916 under the Dual Contracts, the stretch between Alabama Ave. and Cresecent Street is on the same structure as originally built in 1893. After Marcy Ave. the crosses the Williamsburgh Bridge and ends up at Broad and Wall Streets in the newest Dual Contracts subway station (opened in 1931). The J is a history lesson on one train.

  5. Someone says:

    Interesting, and as of October 2012 it has been renovated- again.

  6. Larry Mac says:

    Off the Bee Line bus out of Hempstead I used to climb aboard at 168th Street and make my way by Broadway Junction to snag the Myrtle Avenue el down to Jay Street at the end of the line. Back in the mid-1960s the old Myrtle still had some ancient wooden cars on it. Rumor had it that you were clanking your way on President McKinley’s inaugural express.

  7. Warren Westbo says:

    Another rare sight… and assuming not stalled, an MGB actually on the road.

  8. Tal Barzilai says:

    Some of the stops still have their towers or substations there according to in some of these more recent images.

    • JOE M says:


  9. Des says:

    Anybody remember Gertz Department store and three great theaters: The Alden, The Merrick and the Valencia? They were at the end of the El.

    • Tristan says:

      Yes, indeed. I gre up in Old Howard Beach, and Gertz was the destination in Jamaica for our shopping (we might also go to A&S on Fulton St. or into the”city” for Macy’s; later, car trips took us to Valley Stream). I went to the Valencia, but not the other theaters. We usually took the bus to Jamaica. One of my treats as kid was getting tropical fish at a store near Gertz.

      Further down Jamaica Ave., do you remember Jahn’s Ice Cream, the Four Brothers Hofbrau Restaurant, and the RKO movie theater (what was that name?).

      Recently, back in the area for a visit, I went to the King Mansion for the first time, and I recommend it. It was always a bit mysterious, sitting in the middle of the park.

  10. Steve says:

    I can tell you that once it came down, exposing Jamaica Avenue to sunlight for the first time in a century, she did not look so great! Neither did she blossom as many would have expected. It took another decade with the construction of the State office building, the multiplex and York College for life to seemingly return. The EL era, for all it disadvantages, seemed to have more life.

  11. The old El reached as far east as 168th Street, the new subway only goes to Parsons Blvd. Not sure why this was an improvement for Queens. The free E to J transfer I suppose.

  12. paktype says:

    The interesting thing is that the demolition of the elevated had the opposite effect on the neighborhood that it was supposed to have. Before the demolition, Gertz and Macy’s had outlet stores on Jamaica Avenue near Sutphin and there was a movie theater there as well, the Valencia. All disappeared within a few years of the demolition of the elevated. It is now thought that the elevated brought people from other parts of Queens and Brooklyn to downtown Jamaica, which at one time was a main shopping hub in Queens. Once the elevated came down, the area was not accessible by train and the shoppers went elsewhere. By the time the subway line started operating in or about 1988, people had already become accustomed to shopping malls. Jamaica would never again be a shopping mecca the way it once was.

  13. Al_C says:

    The view west from 150th St and Jamaica Ave hasn’t really changed all that much.

    A google earth street view trip really shows the cultural shift though.
    How many places that do women’s nails can that area support ?

  14. Clinton says:

    And didn’t the EL demolition isolate the massive Long Island Bus Terminal at 165th Street? I was there recently and could not find a train to walk to for the life of me. I eventually had to grab a bus on Archer, which felt completely wrong…. from an intermodal perspective.

  15. I Remember When The J Train Use To Run Out To 168 Street The El Was Demolished til 1979 Queens Blvd Was Your Last Stop September 10,1977 -April 15,1985 at the age of 13 in 1985 We Went On A Class Trip To The Bronx It Was A Mess On The Van Wyck Expressway Traffic Was A Mess At The Time Cause The El Got Torn Down 121 Street Was Your Last Stop I m Writing Poetry Trying To Get A Book Out I Might Write Poetry On The Old Jamaica Subway Stops 168 street 160 Street Supthin Blvd Queens Blvd Metropolitan Av

  16. april says:

    I left before the el came down. I never imagined Jamaica Ave. without it. In the early sixties, the neighborhood was becoming a bit rough. We went to Lin’s and May’s and Gertz, and the high point was buying big hot pretzels coated in kosher salt outside, 4 for a buck or somesuch you’ll never see again. God they were good. I loved the bus depot by Lin’s. I think we used to take the Q60 bus down Queens Blvd. to get over to Archer and walk, or else we took the F train to 169th Street and did the same. We sometimes went to the Valencia or its rival (was it a Loew’s?) until my mom was hit in the head with a bb, which fortunately just grazed her. That put an end to all moviegoing in the area! In the early seventies I would head over there with my AA girlfriend, “blushing at all the Afrosheeners.” Yeah, I bought my red, black and green fro pick there; it was one of many things to do in the shadows of the big behemoth that would soon fall silent.

  17. Linda D. says:

    I remember shopping with my mother and grandmother in Jamaica. Wasn’t there a roof top garage associated with Gertz? I have a dim memory of driving there with them at one point. In any event, I remember Jamaica Avenue as a wonderful adventure. My grandmother would take me to Grant’s department store for lunch. I think it was like a five and dime. I remember wood floors and a lunch counter with vinyl covered stools that my mother would sternly warn me NOT to spin on. There was a soda fountain shaped like a Hires Root Beer barrel and they would serve grilled franks on a buttered roll. Afterwards, my grandmother would let me choose two cookies from a nearby glass case. They used to make vanilla and chocolate dutch cookies in the shapes of a boy and a girl. I used to drive my mother crazy while I would try to decide if I wanted a chocolate couple or a vanilla boy and a chocolate girl…or maybe two girls in two different flavors…or, wait, maybe…well you get the picture: indulgent grandma, exasperating kid and a mother who needed to finish her shopping and get home to make dinner.

    There was also a poultry market down on Archer Avenue that scared the bejesus out of me as squawking chickens would travel on the ceiling height conveyer belt of doom.

    When my sister was born, mom started driving in the opposite direction to the brand new shopping malls where she didn’t have to worry about me darting into traffic while she focused on the baby. Wow, I can’t believe I remembered all that. Your post and the photos woke a whole bunch of memories. Thanks!

  18. James Clark says:

    I remember my Mom used to take us to the bowling alley at the Metropolitan Avenue Station on the weekends, and Christmas shopping from Brooklyn during the 70s. This line was the unification between both boroughs and over time, politics and lack of desire to preserve history, it was demolished. Without the past, there’s no future.

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